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The Disney vacation

We're back, we're settled in. The laundry is mostly done, we've actually prepared and eaten two home-cooked meals, and Calvin has already finished two sections in math and thoroughly explored the Mayas. Obviously the last thing to return to normal is my journaling here. More on our exploration of the Mayas later.

First, a bit of trip closure. It was fabulous. We had sun every day (except the morning we drove to Vero, but who needs sun for driving?), and the unseasonably warm weather was pure joy. We stayed in a Disney resort and let the Disney crew take care of our every need: we were picked up from the airport, our luggage delivered directly to our rooms, and our meals were covered by a dining plan that we were able to cash in for some surprisingly nice meals in a lot of different places (they force you to eat the desserts). The resort had cafeteria style eating, and a bar by the pool, and the great Disney bus system got us to and from the parks every day. The place is like a city unto itself, with friendly staff (they refer to all workers as cast members), good food, clean grounds, and bright, open spaces (plus they know how to move the crowds through smoothly). When we left the parks we transferred (by rental car) to the Disney resort at Vero Beach, and things there were very much the same. There is no service quite like Disney service, and I can see why so many of my friends have mentioned taking frequent, even yearly, trips.

Plus Disney really does try to create that magic they promise in every ad. Calvin's favorite part was meeting the characters, riding the rides, and especially riding the Figment ride and Spaceship Earth. Jon's favorite part was the firework show at Magic Kingdom. Mom loved the Animal Kingdom African safari ride and the fireworks, and dad loved "the margarita ride" (i.e., drinks at Epcot's Mexico pavilion, plus beer in Germany, sparkling wine in Italy, and wine in France). My favorite part? Maybe everything, but I really loved that the cast members in the World Showcase were actually from those countries. Listening to them talk to each other in their native languages was really fun.

And the characters. There's just something about that mouse. You see? They've even got me doing it, because something else Disney does really well is create a sense of belonging and nostalgia in visitors. It makes people buy things, after all, like ears, or pins, stuffies, and shirts. We got away pretty easy on those counts (we've practiced immunity for years), but while Calvin had no attachment to any Disney character before we left (no real knowledge of any Disney character actually—even Pooh he knew most through Milne), while we were there he developed an admiration for several of the characters (the ones worn by humans), especially Figment and Mickey. Mostly Mickey. And how could he not? There really is something about that mouse.

Yes, it's obvious how infectious the Disney machine can be, and yes that's something I've always avoided, but I don't feel like our values were encroached upon in any way. Being at the park didn't force us to change the way we approach things, and our avoidance approach to pop-culture didn't at all get in the way of our enjoyment. And that character attachment? He fell in love with a live character he met on a magical trip, much like falling in love with a panda at the zoo (or a penguin), and I hope Calvin will always have this happy love for the two characters he met there—two happy memories, souvenirs from a really magical trip.

I'm a little in love with them myself. What a great, great trip.

Notes to self (or anyone else who might appreciate them):

1. Staying in the park in the Disney resort (and using their bus system) saved a lot of time.

2. The Disney photo cards are great. I assumed the photographers set up around every corner were offering to sell photos, but actually they give you a free photo card that you use everywhere in the parks, then you access your shots online (for free) and decide then if you want to buy anything. Great idea. PLUS, they were all more than happy to take a shot with my camera, too. Awesome!

3. The fast pass really did come in handy a couple of times (probably would even more so at a busier time), but for it to work really well you have to plan ahead.

4. Kidcot...I wish we'd known about it the first day we were there—it's a great way to get kids more involved in the World Showcase tour. At each of the eleven countries in the Showcase there is a table where kids can collect country stamps on a (free) bear picture that they color. Or, for $10 we bought Calvin a passport from a gift shop that cast members at each country stamped and wrote messages for him in their native languages. Then he spent much of dinner carefully placing the stickers (six for each country) on the appropriate pages. He's very attached to it.

5. The Kimpossible missions in Epcot were way more fun than I had anticipated.

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